I’m no casting agent, but I have pegged Michael Shannon for a super-villain role for years. Still, I never thought Shannon — who has never really appeared in any blockbuster — would ever be tapped to star in such a role. However, people all over the world who have never seen the Oscar-nominated actor act will see Shannon star as General Zod in Man of Steel, and he spoke to The Los Angeles Times about the role and if he ever lightens up.
Though General Zod is clearly the supervillain of Man of Steel, Shannon insists that he doesn’t see his character as evil. He explains, “I don’t consider him a bad guy. He’s a general just trying to do his job. Ask any general what their purpose in life is and it’s to defend whatever people they happened to be aligned with. He’s aligned with Krypton. It’s his mission, plain and simple.” Read more
It’s official: Jonah Hill is a serious actor. Sure, he might be co-starring in This Is The End and is likely returning for a sequel for 21 Jump Street, but in an interview with Rolling Stone Hill refuses to speak about his more famous filthy comedies and only wants to speak about his transition from comedian to serious actor in films like Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street.
When asked about how he managed to shed so many pounds from his once-chubby frame? He answers, “My workout routine is of little relevance.”
When asked about passing gas? He answers, “I’m not answering that dumb question! I’m not that kind of person! Being in a funny movie doesn’t make me have to answer dumb questions. It has nothing to do with who I am.” Read more
Last week, I analyzed examples of the most successful examples of star casting on Broadway in recent years. While those productions are on the top tier, other productions don’t fare as well – with some even closing early, which is usually considered a major embarrassment for the star in question in additional to the significant financial loses faced by the producers.
A recent example of a production that closed early is Orphans, which starred Alec Baldwin, which provides a microcosm of all the reasons why a production starring a famous actor can fail. Baldwin caused a minor commotion when he largely blamed the early closing of Orphans on New York Times critic Ben Brantley’s negative review. However, there are a myriad of other reasons that seem for more likely the cause of the early closure. First, it seems that the bad publicity stemming from Shia LaBeouf and Baldwin’s public feud – which both actors fed in the media – had a negative impact on potential audiences (in his rant Baldwin blamed this also, but didn’t exactly take his share of the blame). However, Baldwin’s $50,000 per week salary was more likely a major culprit considering that while Orphans sold well (an average of 82% capacity for its 64 performances), the average paid ticket price was $71.99, way below the top ticket price of $225. That indicates that few premium seats were bought at face value, which significantly hurt the amount of money the production made. Read more
Millions of people probably know Paul Bettany best for being the witty English voice of Iron Man’s virtual assistant, Jarvis. While that’s not completely a shame (those gigs probably land Bettany quite a bit of well-deserved money), viewers who haven’t seen more of Bettany’s work are missing out on a wonderful actor — particularly now, when Bettany claims he feels re-energized. In an interview with The Guardian, Bettany talks about his recent role in the movie Blood and what rekindled his love for acting.
Blood follows a harrowing arc for his character, and Bettany points out that one of the difficulties of being an actor is having to portray a character’s breakdown when the movie is shot out of sequence. He says, “Directors always say, ‘Oh, we’ll shoot it in sequence,’ but it turns out to be an incredibly costly way of working, because it involves moving lots of trucks. Consequently, you have to shoot all the scenes that take place in one location, then move on to the next. But for all that, I was quite fastidious about the part. I tracked the character’s state very carefully in the script, as though it were a graph. I mean, that’s my fucking job, I suppose. I’m making it sound very technical and sophisticated.” Read more
In the past few years it seems like a Hollywood star opens a play on Broadway on almost a monthly basis. While this is a huge boost for Broadway and New York City – think of how many people traveled to Manhattan just to see Tom Hanks on stage in the last few weeks – the trend of “star casting” is controversial among Broadway regulars, many of whom see it as outsider stars jacking up ticket prices and “taking away” roles from legitimate Broadway actors for huge paychecks.
In fact, because of stars’ salaries – actors like Tom Hanks and Al Pacino are paid upwards of $100,000 per week on Broadway – a detractor might question if spending all that money on a star is even worth it for producers when profit margins in the Broadway business are often razor thin.
Though star casting has a long history in New York (for example, Jackie Gleason did lengthy Broadway runs while he was a television superstar), I looked at the box office data from The Broadway League of select productions from the last five seasons (May 2008-May 2013) to see how effective star casting has been in recent years. I looked at three primary figures: the total number of performances (including previews), the percentage of seats filled (capacity), and the average purchased ticket price. The last figure is important because a star could be playing to 80% full houses and the production could still fail because the 20% unsold are the $200+ premium seats that need to sell to cover the star’s big salary. Read more
I know what you’re thinking — I’ve seen Hamlet before. But if the world made more sense, buses of high schoolers and college kids who are studying Shakespeare would show up at the Sargent Theatre to experience Shakespeare with this engrossing production of Hamlet from The Seeing Place instead of experiencing his work through Sparknotes (or worse, Wikipedia).
The great thing about writing a review of Hamlet is that I don’t have to write a plot summary. Its language is so ingrained in our culture that probably everyone uses a phrase from its text daily without even realizing it (I always loved the Isaac Asimov quote, “There is the story of the woman who read Hamlet for the first time and said, ‘I don’t see why people admire that play so. It is nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together.’”) The Seeing Place presents a very contemporary version of Hamlet, yet at the same time the group adheres to some Shakespearean traditions. Like in Shakespeare’s day, the supporting actors double roles (in one particular smart match, David Arthur Bachrach plays the ghost of Hamlet’s father and also the Player King, who is a stand-in for Hamlet’s father in the play-within-a-play “The Mousetrap.” Oh yeah, he also makes a fantastic Gravedigger.) Read more
Paul Bettany on Lars von Trier and Modern Directors: “For the most part, directors have lost faith in actors”
Paul Bettany gave a remarkably candid interview with The Guardian while working on Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar. Though he didn’t say much about Nolan’s next film (and knowing how secretive Nolan is about his projects that’s not surprising), he did talk about what he looks for in a director — and what he thinks modern directors have lost. He also singles out one director who he had a very difficult time working with.
Surprisingly, Bettany confessed that he has never seen Dogville, the critically acclaimed 2003 Lars von Trier movie that Bettany stars. He told the interview that he had “a really terrible time making it” and revealed that he didn’t get along with von Trier’s style. He explains, “As an actor, I have questions. I want to know what I’m doing. And he simply wouldn’t talk to me. You’re not allowed to talk about the film and there is no rehearsal. The whole experience was diametrically opposed to what I thought it would be. Let me be clear: I love Lars’s films. He’s a precociously brilliant director. But he has no interest in what the actors think. He just stands there and says [mimics Danish accent]: ‘Louder! Louder! Do it louder!’ That’s the extent of your collaboration. You know what it’s like? It’s like he’s Jackson Pollock and you’re on the sidelines, mixing his colours. It is entirely his gig.” Read more
For quite some time Johnny Depp was attached to star in the biopic Black Mass as Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, who is currently on trial for his role in 19 murders. But it was suddenly announced on May 30 that he was out after a pay dispute. Or is he? That seems to depend on whom you ask.
The Hollywood Reporter has taken an in-depth look at Depp’s exit (or non-exit). When international interest in the film was soft, financiers Cross Creek and Exclusive Media asked Depp to reduce his salary to $10 million — half of his original $20 million price tag. The story was initially reported that Depp balked at these terms and then walked. It was surprising news because it is rare for financiers to ask any talent — particularly those of Depp’s magnitude — to renegotiate their deals after the agreements have been made, especially since Depp was to begin shooting the movie on August 26. Read more
Russell Crowe on Getting in Shape for ‘Man of Steel’: “I didn’t realize that I would be wearing spandex. I didn’t realize that I’d have to fit into it as well”
Though Russell Crowe is no stranger to beefing up for a role, it had been some time since he had to do so before he agreed to portray Superman’s Kryptonian father Jor-El in Man of Steel. Crowe is following in the footsteps of Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El in 1978′s Superman (and again nearly thirty years later in Superman Returns, which featured unused footage from the original). However, Crowe didn’t realize that he would have to be in nearly as great shape as Henry Cavill, who plays his grown-up son Superman.
Jenna Fischer on Why She’s Doing Theater After ‘The Office’ Finale: “My heart wouldn’t allow me to step into another television show”
So life after The Office begins for its principal cast, like Jenna Fischer, who had been with the show for the entirety of its nine-year run. For Fischer “life after” starts with her New York theater debut at the strictly limited engagement world premiere of Reasons to Be Happy, a play by Neil LaBute, which runs through the end of June at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Fischer spoke to The Wrap about why she decided to make her stage debut after the end of the biggest success of her career and how she feels about taking on a totally different role than The Office‘s Pam Halpert.
Fischer admits that she couldn’t see herself doing another television show immediately after The Office. She explains, “My heart wouldn’t allow me to step into another television show. The Office was just such a special work environment that I would have felt disloyal or something. It’s like a relationship. How do you date again after you’ve had your heart broken? So I wanted a work experience that was totally different. I moved to a different city, I worked in front of a live audience on a stage with no cameras or set or anything to remind me of The Office.” Read more